Winning Away From Boston Key to Celtics’ Success This Year


March 23, 2010

Winning Away From Boston Key to Celtics' Success This Year After a difficult road trip that tested their collective resolve as a playoff contender, it's home at last for the Celtics.

And maybe that's not such a good thing.

From wire to wire this season, the Celtics have been one of the few teams in the NBA that has performed better on the road than in its home gym. Fans at the TD Garden have watched the C's battle fatigue, shooting slumps and just general inconsistency in their play. But on the road, they've put on a traveling clinic for the rest of the league.

After their second-half collapse in Utah on Monday night served to remind us that the C's are still human, the team's record now stands at 21-12 at home and 24-13 away this season. In an Eastern Conference that's been almost universally bad on the road this year, Boston is one of only three teams (along with Cleveland and Orlando) to post a winning road record. In the entire NBA, they're one of two teams with 24-plus road victories. The Cavs, at 25-11 away from Quicken Loans Arena, are the only other.

So why are the Celtics so good away from the Garden? Here are three theories:

1. Call it the LeBron James Doctrine. LeBron called out the Celtics a week and a half ago, before the C's paid their visit to the Q on March 14. He said the Celtics were "bored with the regular season," but he expected them to bring their "A" game come playoff time.

Maybe it's fair, maybe not. But if King James' theory is in fact true, then wouldn't it be especially prevalent at home? Where would anyone be more bored than in the building they walk into 41 nights a year? The same locker room, the same bench, the same home court every time you walk into the Garden — it could put them in a rut. The road is refreshing, it's exciting, it's something different. A different city each night, maybe that fires the Celtics up. The C's are built around energy guys — Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, Rajon Rondo. The road might simply be a better fit for their personality.

2. Boston is a tough place to play. The members of the media remind you if you don't win consistently. With every loss, there's the question of whether your season is going down the tubes and if it's time to give up. Every time you don't live up to expectations, the fans let you know. The C's were booed on their home floor two weeks ago against Memphis — and they'd won four of their last five. It's a high-stress environment, and sometimes it's good to get away. The Celtics have shown that.

3. Everywhere they go on the road, the Celtics are hated. Player trash talk flies in both directions, fans resent the big-market former champions and there's just a general animosity for Celtic pride outside of Boston. No one likes seeing green on their home floors. Maybe that invigorates these Celtics. With the competitive fire of a player like KG, there's a lot to be said for anger fueling your will to win.

Whatever the reason, the Celtics have proven that they're road warriors this season. And it's a good sign for the C's going forward.

It's been pointed out that over the past two seasons, it's the team with the best road record that ends up winning the whole thing. And with the C's just a game and a half off the Cavs' pace in the race for that distinction, that should be music to Doc Rivers' ears.

It makes sense that road success would indicate playoff success. The postseason is one big, long road trip — you travel after every game or two, you never get settled and you never get to establish any consistent rhythm of playing in one building. You have to be a trooper to win on the road, and that's even more true in the NBA's second season.

The Celtics have proven before that they can weather the difficult travel schedule and the taxing physical grind of playoff basketball. And while they may not look like the same championship contenders they were two years ago, the numbers are starting to suggest otherwise.

The road ahead is long, but these Celtics love the road. This much, we know.

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